Lobster Fra Diavolo

Lobster Fra Diavolo

I remember eating lobster fra diavolo at Italian restaurants as a kid. Because it was one of the more expensive items on the menu, we’d order one for the table and everyone in the family would have a taste. Back then, lobster fra diavolo meant lobster with red sauce and a lot of crushed red pepper flakes. After I trained as a chef, that formula didn’t seem so appealing. Just putting lobster pieces in tomato sauce was not much of a step up from serving the precious meat with ketchup. So I thought about how bouillabaisse is made, by using shellfish to flavor the tomato and wine sauce, and proceeded from there. The sauce is made in the pan that the lobsters have cooked in, so it takes on some of that flavor. The tomalley (which is the green liver) and the roe, if there is any, are added to the sauce to give the dish a bit more complexity.–Mark Strausman

LC If You Just Can't Bring Yourself to Kill a Lobster Note

We understand. We sometimes get the willies, too. Just substitute a couple of fully cooked, shell-on lobster tails, found at your local seafood counter, for the whole lobsters. No judgement here.

What to Sip Note: Classic southern Italian wines such as Taurasi or Salice Salentino would certainly work well with this dish, but for a real gourmet celebration, get a bottle of Champagne.

Lobster Fra Diavolo

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 3 to 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen cookbook

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Place the lobsters in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Turn each lobster on its back and, using a large knife, split it lengthwise down the middle. (This will kill it instantly.) Spread open the lobster bodies and tails but do not remove the meat from the shells. Remove the eyes and antennae and scrape out the digestive sac, reserving the tomalley and roe, if desired.
Place a large Dutch oven or other wide pot over medium heat. When the pot is hot, add the olive oil. Add the garlic and stir until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the hot pepper and lobsters, cut side down, and cook until the shells turn red and the lobster meat is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. (You may need to cook the lobsters in batches.) Remove the lobsters from the pot.
Add the wine and tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the anchovies, oregano, and tomalley and roe, if desired, and stir well. Simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened, 6 to 7 minutes. Taste and season with additional dried pepper, to taste. Add the lobster shells and meat to the sauce and simmer until the lobster is cooked through, about 5 more minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, fill a pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the salt. Add the pasta, stir, and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Transfer the lobsters to a plate and either reserve to serve atop the pasta or remove the lobster meat from the shells, chop it, and stir it into the sauce.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. Transfer to a large serving platter and sprinkle with the parsley. If you didn’t incorporate the lobster into the sauce, place it on top of the pasta. Serve family-style.
Print RecipeBuy the Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen cookbook

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Recipe Testers Reviews

This is a fabulous winter preparation for lobster! The sauce was sweet, with just the right kick from the pepper flakes, while the anchovies added great depth. It was fairly easy to prepare—although finding a cooking vessel large enough to sauté the lobsters can be a challenge. (I set a roasting pan over two burners, and that did the trick.) This dish made a fine centerpiece for a small dinner party, served with a salad and bread, with sliced blood oranges and cara cara oranges with mint for dessert.

I couldn’t find lobster, so I decided to use spot prawns instead. I followed the instructions pretty much as-written, except for after sautéing the shrimp, I bundled the shrimp shells into a cheesecloth and threw that into the pan, then poured the wine over and let it cook briefly before adding the remaining ingredients. The results were delish—both my husband and I thought that it could have passed for lobster had we not known. The texture of the prawns and the flavor from the shells in the sauce really helped this along.

The other plus about this recipe was that the sauce wasn’t acidic, which some tomato sauces can be. The addition of the wine really helps that from happening. This will be a repeat recipe in our house, especially if I can find fresh lobster. I’ll try it with fresh Dungeness crab when the season is right.

I loved this pasta. The lobster turned out perfectly, and the blend of wine, tomatoes, and seafood with a pinch of heat is perfect. The sauce isn’t too acidic, as some tomato sauces can be, and the lobster is the real star. I did make a change in this recipe procedure, though, by using six lobster tails. (I just couldn’t bring myself to dispatch a live one.) I loved the ease in making the sauce in the same pot as the lobster. The juices from the lobster add that extra flavor to the sauce, and the anchovies melt right in, adding additional savoriness. I did omit the oregano and increase the parsley a bit, and though this pasta is perfect as-is, if I were to make another small change, it would be to increase the amount of tomato sauce. I’d go so far as to double the amount of tomatoes and proceed with the recipe as-is. The pasta came together very quickly, and is impressive enough to serve to company.


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  1. Can this be made ahead? We’ve invited Italian friends for T-giving. & would like to serve this along with traditional turkey. Is it possible to use frozen lobster meat? We have 4 lbs in our freezer! Thanks

    1. Hi mmhi1009, I think frozen lobster meat is fine. I worry a bit about trying to make this ahead. I have visions of tough lobster and gummy pasta. It is such a fast dish that I would try whip it up at the last minute while your turkey is resting.

  2. Love the recipe! Delicious and tasty! Even my chinese wok can barely hold all the lobster, seafoods, and pasta!!! Love it!!!

    1. So glad you enjoyed, Queenie, this is one of my go to pasta dishes, Cheers!

  3. I think removing the meat from the shell(s) before service is a must here; or I predict a real mess on my hands (pun intended) and on my red satin party dress, my white linen tablecloth, my date… Recipe looks delish! Same way I start a seafood paella.

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